What is Lent?

Over the past few years, we have intentionally devoted more attention to the church calendar and especially to Lent.  Since that time, we have had several people ask, “What is lent?”  Here are some thoughts! Lent is the period of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter where Christ followers invest themselves in prayer, repentance, fasting and other spiritual disciplines.  The thought is that just as Christ sacrificed his life for us, so we, through these disciplines, are encouraged to sacrifice ourselves during this time so that we may grow in grace.  And while Lent is neither mentioned nor commanded in the Bible, we believe it is a beneficial tool that, when approached by faith, can spur us on to greater worship and understanding.  And who knows, we may even learn to love our Lenten celebration.  After all, Advent is not mentioned in the Bible, but we all love our

By | 2017-04-08T15:47:13+00:00 April 8th, 2017|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , |

Of Rebels and Wild Rides

Does history shapes who we are?  I want to think so, but my inclination today is that when we want it to, it doesn’t, but (and here’s the kick in the pants) when we don’t want it to affect us, it does.  Here’s the history I want to shape me.  Not surprisingly, it’s from Paul Revere and the American Revolution.  For those who don’t know, on “April 18 in 1775” (“hardly a man is now alive”), Paul Revere set off on his historic ride to my hometown.  His goal was to warn the minutemen in Lexington and Concord that the regulars were coming to steal their military supplies and arrest Hancock and Adams (they were busy keeping a low profile in a tavern in Lexington – you know that Sam Adams!).  If you know the poem (“Listen my children and you shall hear. . . .”), you get the feeling

By | 2017-04-08T15:50:15+00:00 March 16th, 2017|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , |

A Weekly Visit to China with Chris and Debbie

Most of us know that Chris and Debbie work hard, but only a handful probably know that they spend a good portion of their days each week “in” China.  Perhaps that’s not literally true, but it is close enough.  Each week, Chris and Debbie lead three different Bible studies over the internet with some Chinese friends.  It’s an amazing ministry, and we thought you would like to know more about it.  Consider this a blog in an interview format (and we will switch roles here – Dane's questions, like Mao, will be red; and Chris and Debbie’s responses will be in traditional American font! Obviously, you still have a huge heart for your homeland, but going to China every year is both expensive and draining.  What are you doing to reach out to your friends in China with the good news of Jesus? We have several small groups studying the

By | 2017-04-08T11:47:54+00:00 February 14th, 2017|Categories: Blog|Tags: , |

Becky’s Story

LIFE, FAMILY, CHURCH AND . . . FLOOR HOCKEY It's a funny thing . . . the floor hockey event. . . . We've been going since James and I were engaged (I remember sending the death stare to his ex-girlfriend, lol).  I've carted infant car seats and toddlers. . . . I've waddled in very pregnant...  There has always been excitement on years where one of the kids gets to play for the first time.   I've bumped into old school friends and always take the time to haunt the hallways of my old high school.  I sit on the steps in the exact same spot where James and I had our first really deep conversation. You wouldn't expect a thing as trivial as floor hockey to be such a marker in time, but that's exactly what it has become.  I love nostalgia.  My kids prioritize floor hockey night,

By | 2017-04-08T11:34:36+00:00 February 2nd, 2017|Categories: Blog, Stories|Tags: |

“Magnificent Seven” River’s Edge Style

I didn’t see the remake.  I don’t know if I want to see the remake.  In fact, some things shouldn’t be remade.  But I loved the original.  Growing up, The Magnificent Seven was my western of choice.    Seven gunfighters are hired to defend a small Mexican village from an entire army of bandits.  They know the odds are against them going in, but odds don’t matter.  They have a job to do.   Now, to achieve the proper effect, play the theme music loudly in your head and then reread those last three sentences.  It kind of gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?  Keep the music playing and then listen intently as Steve McQueen says, “We deal in lead, friend.”   Let it play some more and listen in as Cavera (the head of the bad guys) mocks all the new walls the villagers have made saying, “These won’t keep me out.”  Only

By | 2017-01-19T23:12:55+00:00 January 19th, 2017|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |

The Coming King

You can't really understand Christmas without understanding the Old Testament.  And that means you can't truly sing about Christmas without first singing the songs of the Old Testament, the Psalms.  And at Christmas time, you've got to sing!  This is the first of four sermons based on four different psalms that speak powerfully about the promise and hope of Christmas in a series we've entitled, The Psalms of Christmas. This sermon examines Psalm 2.

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 December 11th, 2016|Categories: Blog, Sermon, The Psalms of Christmas|Tags: , , |

Of Miracles On and Off the Ice

The year was 1980.  The Olympics were weeks away, but everyone knew.  The US hockey team wasn’t that good.  Coach Herb Brooks had chosen to go an unorthodox route to build his team, and it wasn’t paying off.  Instead of loading up on the best college players in the land, he chose, instead, to fill his roster with those who he thought would make the most cohesive team, even if that meant choosing lesser-skilled players.  It sounded wise; but when that team played the Soviets in a pre-Olympic exhibition game, they were crushed 10-3.  And that is when everyone knew: the Olympics had not even started yet, but the US team was done.  But then something strange happened when the games began. Far from being eliminated in the first round, the US team showed amazing resilience and came out of the first round winning four games and tying one (and

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 December 9th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , |

The Last Blog I’m Giving on Giving

Giving advice is all around us. Some good.  Some bad.  Some terrible.  Consider: “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. He also accepteth gifts from a grouch.”  --Catherine Hall “You should give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving.” --unknown “Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and take without forgetting.” --Elizabeth Bibesco “Do yer givin’ while you’re livin’, so you’ll be knowing’ where its goin’.” --unknown “There is no grace in a gift that sticks to the fingers.” --Seneca “You’ll never be as lazy as the guy who named the fireplace.” –unknown Okay, the last quote wasn’t about giving, but I found it encouraging.  And when you talk about giving, you want to be encouraging.  Today, I want to encourage you by answering the question, “What does giving do for us?”  As it turns out, it does all sorts of things. First, giving,

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 November 21st, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , |

Survey Says. . . .

Okay, it wasn’t scientific or carefully designed; but it was interesting and, at points, quite telling. I’m talking about the survey we took at River’s Edge as part of our 14th anniversary celebration.  If you weren’t here to celebrate with us, shame on you.  Survey says, “no birthday cake for you!”  But if you were here, my guess is that you would be interested in hearing the opinions of others.  But first let me quote an old Turkish proverb: “If you speak the truth, have a foot in the stirrup.”  I’m not sure how that applies here, but I am sure it does.  So with that in mind, here are seven observations about how we are doing as a church. Insight number 1: 22% of us indicated that they don’t enjoy reading blogs.  That means that almost a quarter of those who took the survey won’t read this article about

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 November 14th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , |

Who Are You?

I remember my first day of high school like it was yesterday. I remember the chill in the air as I stood at the bus stop, waiting in silence with three or four other kids. I remember feeling lost as I stepped into a building that would occupy my days for the next four years. I remember the first words spoken to me, as I stepped hesitantly into what I thought was the classroom I belonged in: “Who are you?” I remember the first huddle of fellow students I approached. Who are you? I remember the questioning glances and puzzled expressions. Who are you? I remember a single thought, bouncing around in my head and seeming to constrict my heart with its existential urgency. Who are you? Sometimes, we forget what it’s like to wonder about our own identity. After all, we have jobs. We have families. We have responsibilities

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 November 11th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |

Jesus and Politics

I’ve never met a Will Rogers quote I didn’t like, and that is especially true about his thoughts on politics.  For instance, "Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees." "Congress meets tomorrow morning. Let us all pray: Oh Lord, give us strength to bear that which is about to be inflicted upon us. Be merciful with them, oh Lord, for they know not what they're doing. Amen." The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets. Most of my life, I have thought that politics was a disaster and it was best to not get too seriously involved.  I was into casual politics.  I would vote and pay some attention to what was going on, but I was committed to not getting too serious about anything and just playing the

By | 2016-11-07T11:09:25+00:00 November 7th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , |

Of Stranger Things

Netflix’ original 8-part series, Stranger Things, was written by the Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross) and is streaming now on Netflix.  It stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Fin Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown. There’s a saying that you may be the only Bible the people around you read.  I want to take that one step further and say that there are things in popular culture that may be the only theology some people read and even further yet by saying Netflix’ Stranger Things is one of those things.  Now, you may think linking popular culture and theology is a bit of stretch, but it is true.  The great Donald G. Barnhouse (pastor of 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1927-1960 - that’s right, a real pastor!) used to say all of life illustrates Bible doctrine.  And Stranger Things illustrates!  Now, I am not saying that Stranger Things is the equivalent

By | 2016-11-07T11:08:04+00:00 November 4th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , |

Stolen Blog of the Week

Every once in a while, I come across a blog, article or posting of some sort that I think is engaging.  I may not always agree with everything in it, but I feel it is saying something we ought to consider and think about.  And when I find one of these articles, I feel it is God’s will that I steal it and post it on OUR site.  Now the technical name for this is “annexing,” as in the sentence, “Hitler annexed the Sudetenland.”  But while Hitler did it for political gain, I am doing it in Christian love.  So there. Today, we have two stolen blogs that I would like to present to you for your consideration.  Both are presented in their entirety on their own website without any editing, obscuring or comments from me.  I just provide the links and pretend that I am annexing them as my

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 November 1st, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , |

The Generosity Principle

Recent studies on giving have not been encouraging.  In any given year, 22.1% of all Christians choose not to give (either to a church or a charity).  In fact, only 9.4% of us give away a tenth or more of our income each year (whether that be to a church, a ministry or to a secular charity).  That means the vast majority of us (a whopping 68%) in any given year give between .1 and 9.9% of our income.  What would you guess the actual number is?  Sadly, according to numerous surveys, most of us in this last category give somewhere around 2-3% (another study suggests that churched people give no more than 1.4% of their income to support all three of their top interests: their church, ministries they value and their favorite secular charities). Now, these results come from national surveys taken of people who have some affiliation to

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 October 31st, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , |

Blurbs in the Blogs

Now many of you are thinking, “What a waste of time these blogs have been.  All this talk about giving when everything we needed to know was already in the printed BLURBS we read in our programs each week.”  And you know what?  You are right.  But familiarity breeds contempt.  Many of us haven’t read the offering blurb since 2005, and some people simply skip that section of the program thinking that it must be advertising.  But our whole philosophy of giving is articulated in these eight rotated blurbs.  If you’ve never read them, here they are in one fell swoop.  If you read them long ago, but have forgotten what they said, here they are in DDTS (Dolby Digital Theater Sound).  If you always read them (or read them once a year), you get to take today off!  You may pass go and collect two hundred “way to go’s.” 

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 October 28th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |

The Loose Ends

Author Lance Morrow wisely noted that “a rattlesnake loose in the living room tends to end all discussion of animal rights."  Loose ends, like loose snakes, can’t be a good thing and should be quickly dealt with (when you know you can’t end a sentence with a preposition, but have no other way to say it, well, that’s why God created the parenthetical remark).  So today, we round up a few “loose ends” on tithing and giving as we start to bring this series on giving to an end.  And to do that, let’s look at one of the premiere passages on tithing in the Old Testament, Malachi 3:7-12.  The text reads: “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 October 26th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You about Tithing

Just to be safe (I mean, “clear”), I personally have nothing against the IRS (if any IRS agents are reading this, I’ve always said the IRS is like the FBI, except way cooler).  But lots and lots of people feel the tax code is unwieldy, unjust and oppressive and that the IRS and the mob have lots of things in common; it’s just that one is legal thievery and the other not so much (not me, mind you, I would never say something like that. I love paying my taxes, and I loved The Sopranos!).  Plus, people feel our taxes are just way too complicated and expensive.  It’s not like it was back then. Back in the good old days, Israel had a tax system that was simple.  It was called tithing, and it required that 10% off the top was given to care for the needs of the Levitical

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 October 24th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , |

To Forfeit and To Astound

To Forfeit and To Astound In our previous blog, we took note of some predictions that went terribly wrong.  People studied a situation, made up their mind and could not see it in any other way.  Unfortunately, they were really wrong.  For instance, "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876. “With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” Business Week, 1968 "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad." – -The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903 “Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can

All We Are Saying, Is Give Paul a Chance

All We Are Saying, Is Give Paul a Chance People say things all the time.  Sometimes they are right on the money and sometimes not so much.  Consider these predictions that didn’t quite turn out the way the speaker thought. "Who the heck wants to hear actors talk?" --  M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927. "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." -- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre. "Ours has been the first and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality." --  Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon in 1861. “What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” -- The Quarterly Review, March, 1825. Sometimes the past has something to say to us and sometimes it doesn’t.  In this post and in our next one in the “giving series,” we

By | 2016-10-29T17:39:54+00:00 October 14th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , |

A Top Ten List

A Top Ten List Back in the day, nothing was better than watching Letterman’s Top Ten List.  While I don’t have time for all ten, here are five from his list entitled, “Top Ten Children’s Books NOT Recommended by the National Library Association:” “Curious George and the High-Voltage Fence.” “The Boy Who Died from Eating All His Vegetables.” “Teddy: The Elf with a Detached Retina.” “Things Rich Kids Have that You Never Will.” And number one: “The Care Bears Maul Some Campers and Are Shot Dead.”  Classic.  Simply classic. Today, we want to look at Jesus’ top ten thoughts about giving.  We covered a lot of ground in our previous blog (and asked a lot of questions), but today we simply want to outline what Jesus has to say about giving and let his words speak to us. So here we go. #10: Matthew 6:2-4 – Our motives are critical;

By | 2017-03-04T11:40:32+00:00 October 12th, 2016|Categories: Blog|
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